CBS News scooped the rest of the liberal media in noting the Iraqi government distributed an al-Qaeda memo loaded with pessimism about how time is on the side of the Americans, and recruits are down. While The Washington Times trumpeted the news on its front page, Friday's major liberal newspapers seemed to work very hard to bury that memo and suggest it's quite possible it's dubious in origin.
The New York Times touched on the documents in a front-page story by Dexter Filkins on Zarqawi's replacement, which carried the subhead "Details Include Hints of Group's Disarray." In the fifth paragraph, Filkins noted American officials suggested there were "signs of disruption, and a potential power struggle" inside the group. But the documents were inside the paper, beginning in paragraph 19, and paragraph 21 carried the line about "time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces." But Filkins was careful to note "There was no way to verify the authenticity of the document."
The Washington Post was worse. On page A-22, also in an article on Zarqawi's replacement, Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer also waited until paragraph 21 to get to the documents (you wouldn't have had any clue from the headline). The Post skimmed the evidence briefly:
Also Thursday, the Iraqi government released a document it said was found before Zarqawi's death in a raid on an insurgent safe house. The doucment, which described the insurgency as "gloomy" because of gains by Iraq's security forces, called on insurgents to foment strife among Shiites and between the United States and Iran.
The authenicity of the document, which closely echoes accounts of insurgent strategy offered by Iraq's Shiite political leaders, could not be independently verified. It was written in a style different from typical statements issued by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which refer to Shiites as "rejectionists" or "dogs" and U.S. forces as "crusaders."
The Post showed their preference for more negative stories by putting Finer and Knickmeyer on Page One with this gloomy line about Iraqi prisons:
Iraq's prison system is overrun with Shiite Muslim militiamen who have freed fellow militia members convicted of major crimes and executed Sunni Arab inmates, the country's deputy justice minister said in an interview this week.
"We cannot control the prisons. It's as simple as that," said the deputy minister, Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei, an ethnic Kurd. "Our jails are infiltrated by the militias from top to bottom, from Basra to Baghdad."